17th Sunday in Ordinary Time (B)
July 29, 2012
FOOD TO EAT, AND SOMETHING MORE BESIDES!
It’s been decades the alarum bells of an utter lack of food to feed the hungry multitudes have been sounded over and over again. Years ago, a movie entitled “Soylent Green” took the form of a horror movie – depicting the absolute horrors of a time in future when people would be literally forced to ingest tablets of food made from other human beings.
In our insecurity, in our fears, in our anxieties, the human family has, on occasion, acted in a way that is exactly the opposite of the attitudes being raised by the readings – an attitude of trust, an attitude of confidence and faith that the psalmist reminds us of: “ The hand of the Lord feeds us; he answers all our needs.” (Response)
Those alarm bells have taken various forms throughout recent history. And many of those forms are self-canceling and self-contradictory. We have scientists and self-styled “saviors” of the human race, who work their heads off trying to find ways and means, fair or foul, to reduce the population, or at least prevent more births. But at the same time, we have the same scientists trying their best to prolong life, look for ways and means to “clone” the right people, or to produce “test-tube babies” or “designer babies” at will, or on request, or on demand, for the right fee, of course!
Our human insecurity knows no limits, no bounds, no safeguards, and, for many, no ethically binding rules! The very same people who are worried sick of too many new mouths to feed, are frantically trying to stay young and alive, for as long as they want, for as long as they could, in every way and manner imaginable. In the Philippines and Indonesia, where skin whitening products are making a killing, much more than any other Asian country, this insecurity means doing one’s level best to change one’s color and complexion, and being the eternally young person one is never meant to be at least from the physical and natural viewpoint.
We are insecure beyond measure! We are uncertain beyond belief! And this search for certainty and surety … this search for the coveted “holy grail” of endless youth, renders everyone of us more prone to self-centeredness and selfishness, and makes us think that we owe it to ourselves to live happy and contented, wanting in nothing, and wallowing in comfort and joy all the days of our lives.
Ironically, this is the very reason why we cannot bring ourselves to think of others … why we cannot seem to live with the idea that the world is limited, and that we ought to be sharing what it offers to more people, born or unborn … the very same reason why insecure people that we are, we think of ways and means to just sort of keep everything to ourselves, and refuse to see even the possibilities of so many “Johnny-come-latelies” sharing what appears to us as a shrinking pie.
We are not only insecure. We are also selfish and self-centered. We are a sinful people, tainted by the lure and empty promise of original sin.
I am also selfish. I am also self-centered. Like everyone else, I want to have more and better things. And when I get them, I want to turn them into things that never die, things that have no end, and things that multiply of their own accord, preferably, and things that I won’t ever have to share with others who have even more needs and wants and desires!
This is who we all are. No wonder then, that leaders are tempted to follow the siren songs of personal prosperity and personal luxury and comfort. The flight from the inner city districts towards the urban sprawl and the suburbs are an indication of all this – to go far, far, far and away from the madding crowds! No wonder big pharmaceutical companies that serve the needs of a multi-national conglomerate had been very busy concocting drugs that assure a hassle-free (read: legal or legit) way of preventing more conceptions and more births, even if statistics upon statistics all over show what a misguided principle it is right from the start!
Goods, possessions, riches, comfort, luxury, and everything that can be touched, felt, and counted have all taken the uppermost level in our hierarchy of desires. But today, our Opening Prayer puts us right into the context of something higher, something better, something infinitely more valuable than merely having and holding … We prayed, “God our Father … without you nothing is holy, nothing has value. Guide us to everlasting life by helping us to use wisely the blessings you have given to the world.”
And we have the assurance of the Lord through the prophet Elisha. Nothing can be held on to, forever, he says. Nothing can last forever. We can’t multiply those gifts without giving them away and sharing them. We can’t have our cake and eat it, too. We need to have a proper attitude towards earthly goods and possessions. Like unto Elisha who told his court just as soon as he received those gifts: “Give it to the people to eat.” Despite the protestations of a servant, he insisted: “Give it to the people to eat. For thus says the Lord, ‘They shall eat and there shall be some left over.’”
But we’ve got a whole lot more in the offing. The miracle in the gospel far outshines that mini miracle of Elisha, but which offers the exact same message of the Lord. And this message is simply this … He is in-charge. He is in control. And He knows what it is we need.
Like us, though, we have people like Philip who sounded the alarm. “There is just too many of them,” he protested. “We can’t have enough,” he, in effect, said.
But there was more than just grass in the field. And there surely was more than just mouths to feed and stomachs to satisfy. There was great care and love and solicitude from the Lord – the Lord of promise and fulfillment. There was overflowing love and mercy and compassion from a provident God. Are we to be surprised that there were left-overs in the end? For I can tell you one thing …
“The hand of the Lord feeds us; he answers all our needs.” He gives us what we need … food to eat, and more things besides!
Don Bosco Formation Center
Lawa-an, Talisay City